Microfinancing the Future, One Loan at a Time

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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - More than a billion people living in developing countries survive on a little more than a dollar a day. Those conditions lead to the deaths of an estimated 22,000 children each day.

However, some organizations are tackling this problem with a concept called microfinance.

Esperanza International and Hope International work together to deliver microfinance projects to the Dominican Republic.

"Certainly, in the Dominican Republic, you have two realities," Carlos Pimental, president of Esperanza International, told CBN News. "You have a reality of people with a lot of worth and people with a lot of SUV vehicles."

"But that is not the reality for over 60 percent of the 9.5 million Dominicans who live on this side of the Island of Hispaniola," he continued.

Some of that 60 percent live in barrios, poor communities where jobs are nearly impossible to find.

A Forgotten People

Other areas of the Dominican Republic are built completely around the production of sugar cane. A sugar cane farm is on one side of the street and communities, known as Haitian Bate Communities, are on the other side.

Hope International President Peter Greer spoke with CBN News in the heart of one of those Haitian Bate Communities. He described the residents of this community.

"Many of them don't have documents, so even though they might have been born here, they are not citizens of the Dominican Republic," he explained. "And the thought of going back to Haiti isn't great so they are a forgotten people."

Feeling forgotten can easily lead to hopelessness. There is also room for that despair to grow with so many people in developing countries living on a little more than a dollar a day.

"The global church, we have all we need to see a tremendous impact in our world," Greer said. "And we think now is the key time to get involved in bringing the hope of Christ to communities like this."

Lending to the Poor

Greer writes about making that impact in his book The Poor Will Be Glad.

The book is a microfinancial guide on how to turn the poorest people in the world into entrepreneurs with tiny loans as small as $100.

The Christian Broadcasting Network's  Operation Blessing International uses microfinance in countries like Mexico. As one example, the group reached out to a woman named Laura, who lost her factory job after more than 40 years.

Operation Blessing showed Laura how to turn her love for chocolate into a thriving candy-making business.

In Senegal, CBN's Orphan's Promise gave a young deaf man the tools he needed to turn gourds into works of art he can sell.

And in Guatemala, a microfinance project gave a grandmother a clothing store, which opened the door for her and her granddaughter to move away from the local trash dump.

Micro-Finance Explained

Dr. John Mulford, an expert in the study of microfinance and director of Regent University's Center for Entrepreneurship, described the concept to CBN News.

"One of the challenges of microfinance is trying to figure out how to do it in an efficient, economical way," he said. "Because normally when you lend money you have to do some analysis of the person who gets the money, the project. All of that takes time and money."

Regent University is at work in Rwanda, taking microfinance to the next level with a Business Development Center.

"We're running projects that help people start businesses that we call small to medium-size enterprise, SMEs, which is the next size up from micro-enterprises," Mulford said.

"Small to medium size enterprises are the economic engine of an economy," he continued. "So, we are looking at businesses that employ people. It's the employment that is really the key."

Financing the Future

In less than two years, Regent's Business Development Center has seen 80 graduates from the small East African nation that suffered the mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in 1994.

One successful graduate named Mathelde now employs women from her church to deliver groceries to people's homes.

"We are looking for people who have a heart for their country, so that they are going to employ a lot of other people," Mulford said.

Greer said microfinance can best be described as life-changing.

"This is way bigger than money," Greer said. "If we were just to look at this as a financial transaction, we would miss the call of scripture.  And we also would miss the opportunity to see real change happen."

--Originally aired Tuesday, February 17, 2012.

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.